Mercedes untouchable at Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes dominated the Belgian Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton leading yet another 1-2 finish for the team. The pair finished over 30 seconds clear of third placed driver Romain Grosjean, who qualified fourth before dropping to ninth with a grid penalty.

There was a lot of focus on the race start after new regulations surrounding what drivers can and cannot say to their drivers in the moments just prior to the lights going out. A couple of drivers were slow away on the formation lap but it went without any major problems in the race start proper. There was an aborted start following problems for Nico Hulkenberg on the grid. The Force India driver reported loss of power on his out-lap to the grid, and had been advised by his team to return to the pits at the end of the warm up lap. The team then changed their mind and told Hulkenberg to take the race start as they believed the problem was resolving itself. This was not the case and Hulkenberg was wheeled back into the pits. Carlos Sainz also had his own problems and was asked to return to the pit-lane prior to the start.

When the lights went out it was Sergio Perez who made the biggest impression, going from fourth to second as Nico Rosberg dropped to fifth. Perez made an attempt to take the lead of the race but Hamilton but failed to get past and that proved to be his only opportunity. Pastor Maldonado became an early retirement from the race as his car quickly slowed due to engine problems. He was able to make it back to the pits. Other retirements from the race were Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz.

After Ricciardo retired on track following the final chicane, the Virtual Safety Car was used, neutralising the speed of all the cars on track. The Mercedes duo were pulling away at the front of the field and it was Sebastian Vettel who slotted into third race. He became a late retirement after a tyre delamination in the final couple of laps. After a pit-stop on the 14th lap of the race, Vettel was attempting to go to the end on the medium tyres but he failed to make it. He had found himself under pressure from Grosjean but had been keeping himself ahead of the Lotus driver, with the Ferrari benefiting from good straight line speed. Vettel had called for another pit-stop but the team chose to leave him out.

Daniil Kvyat backed up his strong showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix – where he got his first podium – put in a strong end to the race to finish in fourth. Fresher tyres allowed him to catch and pass the cars ahead. Perez eventually finished fifth, ahead of Felipe Massa in sixth. Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – who started 16th following problems in qualifying and a gearbox penalty – finished the race in seventh with Max Verstappen eighth, Valtteri Bottas ninth and Marcus Ericsson tenth. Williams suffered a pit-stop blunder which saw Bottas’ car fitted with one medium tyre and three softs – a breach of the regulations. Bottas was given a drive through penalty for the mistake but he still managed to salvaged a couple of points.

Felipe Nasr finished in 11th ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Button suffered problems throughout the race including a lack of power, allowing his team-mate to pull away from him. Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens were classified in 15th and 16th with Vettel classified 12th despite not finishing the race.

It was another crushing performance by the Mercedes team, following their disappointment in Hungary. The next race is in two weeks time at Ferrari’s home race of Monza.

Lewis Hamilton on pole for Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes led the way in the first three practice sessions ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Drivers going into the session with grid penalties were Max Verstappen, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Verstappen got a ten place grid penalty for a component change while Grosjean got five places for a gearbox change.  The McLaren duo went into qualifying with combined grid penalties of 105, meaning they will start at the back of the grid regardless.

Q1

Most drivers went out on the medium compound tyre at the start of the session, with Roberto Merhi, Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Ericcson and Will Stevens opting to use the softs straight away. Nico Rosberg’s first flying lap put him ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just under a tenth of a second. Sebastian Vettel slotted into third albeit six tenths of a second off the leading pair. Both McLaren drivers went out to complete laps, despite knowing they would be right at the back due to their penalties. Times started to fall as drivers switched to the option tyre with Force India moving to the head of the times with Sergio Perez. Hamilton soon returned to the top of the times, just a hundredth clear of Rosberg with Perez still within a tenth of a second of the Mercedes duo.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.908
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:48.923
  3. Sergio Perez 1:49.006
  4. Vallteri Bottas 1:49.026
  5. Carlos Sainz 1:49.109
  6. Sebastian Vettel 1:49.264
  7. Kimi Raikkonen 1:49.288
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:49.353
  9. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.469
  10. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.499
  11. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.523
  12. Pastor Maldonado 1:49.568
  13. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.664
  14. Felipe Massa 1:49.688
  15. Max Verstappen 1:49.831
  16. Felipe Nasr 1:49.952
  17. Jenson Button 1:50.978
  18. Fernando Alonso 1:51.420
  19. Will Stevens 1:52.948
  20. Roberto Merhi 1:53.099

Q2

Valtteri Bottas set the first flying lap of the session – a 1:49.678 – before quickly being dislodged at the top of the times by Lewis Hamilton with a 1:48.024. Nico Rosberg went faster still – the Mercedes team-mates once again separated by under a tenth of a second. Kimi Raikkonen came to a halt on track bringing out the red flag with eight minutes of the session remaining. Max Verstappen complained of a loss of power and looked like he wouldn’t be taking any further part in qualifying. There were a flurry of times at the end of the session, with Nico Hulkenberg dropping out of the top ten while his team-mate went fourth. The top thirteen drivers who set a lap time were separated by just over a second and a half, with sixth to eleventh covered by a tenth of a second setting up a close fought pole position shoot out.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:47.955
  2. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.024
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.761
  4. Sergio Perez 1:48.792
  5. Felipe Massa 1:48.806
  6. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.956
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:48.981
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.042
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:49.044
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.065
  11. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.121
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.228
  13. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.586
  14. Kimi Raikkonen No Time Set
  15. Max Verstappen No Time Set

Q3

Going through to the pole position shoot out were both Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez, both Williams, both Lotus, Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. The Williams driver of Valtteri Bottas was first out on track for Q3, soon joined by Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa. Bottas once again set the first flying lap of the session – 1:48.567 – which was promptly beaten by Lewis Hamilton by over a second. Nico Rosberg was four tenths off his team-mate. Hamilton improved his lap-time and maintained pole position. Bottas secured third with Grosjean fourth before his five place grid drop. Perez ended the session fifth, with Ricciardo sixth, Massa seventh, Maldonado eighth, Vettel ninth and Sainz in tenth.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:47.197
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:47.655
  3. Valtteri Bottas 1:48.537
  4. Romain Grosjean 1:48.561
  5. Sergio Perez 1:48.599
  6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:48.639
  7. Felipe Massa 1:48.685
  8. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.754
  9. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.825
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.771

Lewis Hamilton notches up third home win at British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix for the third time following a fortuitous pit-stop decision that saw him swap to intermediate tyres at just the right time.

Hamilton was joined on the podium by team-mate Nico Rosberg while Sebastian Vettel also benefited from a well timed pit-stop to join the Mercedes duo on the podium once again.

It was a race of mixed conditions – largely dry until a couple of rain showers towards the end. Off the line the Mercedes duo were caught out by both Williams drivers, who had locked out the second row of the grid after Hamilton secured pole position by just a tenth from his team-mate. Felipe Massa took the race lead off the line while Valtteri Bottas slotted into second before running too wide and opening the door for Hamilton to get back ahead. The battle at the front was called off following the deployment of the safety car at the end of the first lap.

The safety car was brought out due to an incident which saw both Lotus drivers and Jenson Button retire. Daniel Ricciardo tagged Romain Grosjean, sending the Lotus driver into his team-mate Pastor Maldonado. As Fernando Alonso attempted to avoid the pair he collected his own team-mate, resulting in Button retiring from the race. The incident was investigated after the race but no further action was taken. Ricciardo later retired from the race due to an engine problem while Alonso went on to score his first point of the season. The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap three and racing resumed. Hamilton attempted to pass Massa but locked up and gave Bottas the opportunity to get back ahead.

Massa and Bottas were asked not to fight each other but Bottas believed he had the speed to pull away from the chasing Mercedes duo. Hamilton’s pit stop strategy allowed him to leap frog Massa and take the lead of the race. There was a brief period under Virtual Safety Car conditions to allow marshals to retrieve Carlos Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso.  Light rain started to fall around lap 36 of the race and some drivers – including Kimi Raikkonen, Marcus Ericsson, and Alonso – chose to go straight onto the intermediate tyres. The conditions proved not to warrant the change and Ericsson was unfortunate to pit again for slicks when heavier rain started to fall. In the changeable conditions Rosberg launched a charge on team-mate, slashing the gap. Hamilton reported he had no grip and pitted for intermediate tyres, a decision which proved to pay off when the rain got heavier. Vettel also pitted and went from sixth to third.

There were six retirements from the race in total along with Felipe Nasr who failed to make the start due to a gearbox failure on his out-lap to the grid. Sainz, Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Maldonado, Grosjean, and Button were the other retirements from the race. At the front the top three were followed by the Williams duo, perhaps ruing a lost opportunity to fight for the win. Daniil Kvyat was sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in seventh, Raikkonen eighth, Sergio Perez ninth and Alonso tenth. Ericsson, Roberto Merhi, and Will Stevens also finished the race, although the latter lost his front wing after clipping the barrier but returned to the pits and continued.

Following the cancellation of the German Grand Prix the next action will take place in three weeks time in Hungary.

2015: British GP Preview

It’s the British Grand Prix this weekend and, with seven of the ten teams on the grid based in the UK, it is one of the biggest events on the Formula One calendar. The Force India team are based in Silverstone while it is also the home race for Jenson Button, Will Stevens and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Last time out Nico Rosberg won, cutting the gap to Hamilton in the drivers championship to just 10 points. Felipe Massa finished in third for Williams in a repeat of their podium finish there last year in Austria.

The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone is full throttle for over 60% of the lap and it is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar. The track requires medium to high downforce and features a mixture of high and low speed corners. Pirelli are bringing the medium and hard tyres for the weekend.

Circuit: Silverstone
Number of Laps: 52
Circuit Length: 5.891km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:33.401 Mark Webber (2013)
Previous British Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Hard

Last year’s race was won by Hamilton with Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo also on the podium. There was a big accident on the first lap as Kimi Raikkonen spun across the track and collected Felipe Massa which resulted in a red flag as the barriers needed repairing. Raikkonen had a first lap accident in Austria, this time collecting Fernando Alonso, bringing an end to both of their races. At a time when his future in the sport is under intense scrutiny, Raikkonen will be hoping to have a better weekend this time out. Rosberg retired from last year’s race with a gearbox issue.

Button was another retirement from the Austrian Grand Prix, as McLaren brought his car in as a precaution. He will be hoping for a better showing for McLaren at his home race. Stevens will be making his first home appearance for Manor in an F1 race.

2015: Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying

A drying track greeted drivers for the start of qualifying after heavy rain fell in FP3, which was topped by Sebastian Vettel. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso went into qualifying knowing they would both take 25 place grid penalties (for engine and gearbox changes); while Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat would both be taking ten places.

Q1

Drivers went out on intermediate tyres for the start of qualifying as a dry line started to form on the circuit. After a few drivers discovered the track limits, Will Stevens ended up in the gravel but was able to get the car out of it again. Felipe Nasr was the first driver to go out on the slick tyres, using the supersoft with about 11 minutes of the session remaining. Not long after that Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas went out on soft tyres. Eventually the rest of the field followed suit although they opted for soft tyre rather than the supersoft compound. The times continued to drop as the track rubbered in and got faster and faster. Kimi Raikkonen dropped out in 18th, joined in the bottom five by Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi, Jenson Button, and Sergio Perez.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:10.976
  2. Carlos Sainz 1:11.158
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:11.184
  4. Max Verstappen 1:11.307
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:11.319
  6. Pastor Maldonado 1:11.661
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:11.821
  8. Felipe Massa 1:11.830
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:11.894
  10. Daniel Ricciardo 1:11.973
  11. Felipe Nasr 1:12.001
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:12.092
  13. Lewis Hamilton 1:12.218
  14. Marcus Ericsson 1:12.388
  15. Fernando Alonso 1:12.508
  16. Sergio Perez 1:12.522
  17. Jenson Button 1:12.632
  18. Kimi Raikkonen 1:12.867
  19. Roberto Merhi 1:14.071
  20. Will Stevens 1:15.368

Q2

Both Red Bulls were first out on track, joined by Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso. As was the case in Q1, the times got faster as the track improved. With five minutes of the session remaining, just three drivers were still on track while the rest remained in the garage. Traffic had proved to be an issue in Q1 on such a short track, as drivers fought for a prime position to get their laps in. Daniel Ricciardo had a brief excursion off track across the gravel while he was down in 14th place. Romain Grosjean also ran wide. Going out at the end of Q2 were Pastor Maldonado, Marcus Ericsson, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:08.634
  2. Lewis Hamilton 1:09.062
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:09.392
  4. Valtteri Bottas 1:09.598
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:09.604
  6. Max Verstappen 1:09.631
  7. Felipe Nasr 1:09.652
  8. Felipe Massa 1:09.719
  9. Romain Grosjean 1:09.920
  10. Daniil Kvyat 1:10.187
  11. Pastor Maldonado 1:10.374
  12. Marcus Ericsson 1:10.426
  13. Carlos Sainz 1:10.465
  14. Daniel Ricciardo 1:10.482
  15. Fernando Alonso 1:10.736

Q3

Going into the pole position shoot out were Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg, Max Verstappen, Felipe Nasr, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, and Daniil Kvyat. Bottas and Nasr were the first drivers out on track, quickly followed by Massa and Rosberg. Grosjean remained in the garage as did Verstappen. It was Hamilton who took provisional pole by exactly two tenths of a second over his team-mate. Hamilton spun at Turn 1, bringing an end to his pole position run, while Rosberg had his own problems later in the lap after going faster in the first two sectors.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:08.455
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:08.655
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:08.810
  4. Felipe Massa 1:09.192
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:09.278
  6. Valtteri Bottas 1:09.319
  7. Max Verstappen 1:09.612
  8. Daniil Kvyat 1:09.694
  9. Felipe Nasr 1:09.713
  10. Romain Grosjean No Time Set

Sebastian Vettel edges Lewis Hamilton in Austrian FP3

It started to rain in the third and final practice session ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg was fastest in the first practice session before Sebastian Vettel overcame mechanical issues to go fastest in free practice two.  It was the Ferrari driver who remained at the top for Saturday morning’s practice although just 17 thousandths of a second clear of Lewis Hamilton.

Most of the fastest times were set in the first half of the session due to the rain that came in the second half. The rain started to fall heavily with about 25 minutes remaining. Kimi Raikkonen ran through the gravel at Turn 6 while Rosberg came off at Turn 2. Some drivers went out on the intermediate tyre but Nico Hulkenberg reported there was no grip at all as he slid off the track at Turn 4. Carlos Sainz and Vettel both also had offs at the track condition got worse.

Sergio Perez suffered a right front puncture during the session while Marcus Ericsson reported a lack of energy on the pit straight. Romain Grosjean encountered a gearbox issue during the session while Fernando Alonso compounded McLaren’s difficult weekend so far by coming to a halt on the pit straight. Both McLarens will take 25 place grid penalties for various changes, including a full engine change for Jenson Button. Alonso’s stop brought out a red flag as the rain started to fall.

Free practice 3 results:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:09.994 – 16 laps
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:10.011 – 16 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:10.177 – 12 laps
  4. Sergio Perez – 1:10.221 – 14 laps
  5. Nico Rosberg – 1:10.332 – 23 laps
  6. Felipe Massa – 1:10.408 – 18 laps
  7. Valtteri Bottas – 1:10.417 – 14 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:10.436 – 23 laps
  9. Pastor Maldonado – 1:10.576 – 12 laps
  10. Romain Grosjean – 1:10.863 – 8 laps
  11. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:11.009 – 14 laps
  12. Marcus Ericsson – 1:11.058 – 22 laps
  13. Daniil Kvyat – 1:11.139 – 14 laps
  14. Fernando Alonso – 1:11.168 – 13 laps
  15. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:11.819 – 10 laps
  16. Felipe Nasr – 1:11.906 – 9 laps
  17. Jenson Button – 1:12.616 – 16 laps
  18. Will Stevens – 1:13.328 – 14 laps
  19. Roberto Merhi – 1:13.960 – 8 laps

Sebastian Vettel overcomes problems to go fastest in Austrian FP2

After completing just four laps in the first practice session – which was topped by Nico Rosberg – Sebastian Vettel came back to top the times in FP2.

A number of drivers instantly took to the track for installation laps while Vettel completed the first flying lap. Kimi Raikkonen instantly went faster than his team-mate but then locked up his tyres into Turn 1. Romain Grosjean was back in the car after sitting out FP1  to allow test and reserve driver Jolyon Palmer some time in the car.

Fernando Alonso was running McLaren’s new shorter nose while Jenson Button continued with the old specification. Following issues in FP1, Alonso completed 17 laps. He was forced to stop as a precaution in the second practice session after Button’s car suffered an ignition plug problem. As a result McLaren missed the opportunity to complete option tyre runs.  Many drivers complained about tyres and the handling of their cars as they progressed through the session.

Kimi Rakkonen was the first driver to put the super soft tyres on but Rosberg instantly beat his time on the option tyre run. Then Vettel went fastest by just hundredths of a second. A yellow flag was brought out at Turn 3 with twenty minutes of the session remaining. It was due to Roberto Merhi taking a trip across the gravel, something which then happened to Pastor Maldonado as well.

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:09.600 – 28 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:09.611 – 50 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:09.860 – 41 laps
  4. Pastor Maldonado – 1:09.914 – 44 laps
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 1:10.137 – 49 laps
  6. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:10.160 – 49 laps
  7. Romain Grosjean – 1:10.267 – 38 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:10.356 – 48 laps
  9. Felipe Nasr – 1:10.495 – 39 laps
  10. Sergio Perez – 1:10.585 – 46 laps
  11. Carlos Sainz – 1:10.631 – 50 laps
  12. Daniil Kvyat – 1:10.686 – 48 laps
  13. Marcus Ericsson – 1:10.744 – 40 laps
  14. Valtteri Bottas – 1:10.746 – 34 laps
  15. Felipe Massa – 1:11.011 – 42 laps
  16. Fernando Alonso – 1:11.517 – 17 laps
  17. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:11.676 – 38 laps
  18. Jenson Button – 1:11.919 – 17 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:12.522 – 34 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:13.094 – 34 laps